Eshoo Threatens Net Neutrality Bill If FCC Rules Overturned

Also Plugs Adjusting Spectrum Screen, Not Deregulating Telcos

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that if the D.C. Circuit overturns the FCC's Open Internet order, she will be ready with a bill to clarify the FCC's authority to make such rules.

In a speech at the annual State of the Net Conference of the Congressional Internet Caucus (she is co-chair), Eshoo said that "clarifying" the commission's ability to ensure "a free and open Internet" was a consumer protection issue and that, "should the court overturn the FCC's rules, I will be prepared to introduce legislation."

That will be an uphill climb in a Republican-controlled House, where leadership has expressed no love for the FCC's net neutrality rules.

Eshoo put in a plug for the FCC's proposal to adjust its spectrum screen, which is the amount of spectrum owned by one company in a market that triggers additional concentration concerns. She said the screen should be reformed, including by treating spectrum less than one gigahertz different from other spectrum because it was more valuable.

Wireless companies looking to bid on the broadcast spectrum being freed up in the incentive auction are concerned that tightening the screen for that newly freed spectrum will be a backdoor method of limiting their ability to bid for it in the auction. While the incentive auction legislation does not allow limiting those bidders, it does allow for separate rulemakings like the spectrum screen that could have that effect.

She registered her opposition to a proposal by AT&T to deregulate traditional service as phone companies make the switch to IP delivery. She suggested that would be "throwing out rules that have helped pave the way for more competition...we're talking about an evolution in technology, one that doesn't change the need for interconnection or last mile access for competitive providers."

She also said she hoped the subcommittee would give serious consideration to future of video issues like the impact of data caps on Netflix or anything else that she said would "deny consumers the freedom and flexibility to stream video content whenever and wherever they want."